My kids don’t get excited about going to church most Sunday’s. That’s putting a nice bow on it, isn’t it?
Let’s take the pretty bow off for the sake of this post.
They hate going to church.
Yesterday, I sat in the car with a child who refused to participate. Not all Sunday’s are like that. But sometimes the feet literally stop moving and the tears start flowing. It’s hard to look in your child’s eyes and see them tearfully say “please don’t make me go,” and then force them to go.
I can’t stomach it. That is, clearly, not the type of relational connection I want my children to have with Jesus.
To my dismissive friends– it’s not just our church. It’s pretty much any church we’ve tried out. Trust me, we tried to blame the churches we attended. It’s not their fault. And it’s been going on for a very long time. Yeah, they even hated churches I worked at.
I don’t know any other way to say it. They hate going to church.
[Insert our painfully banging of heads against the wall.]
[Insert the fear of all the comments I’ll get with suggestions for how to make them love going to church. I know, it’s easy for you. Thanks in advance for reminding me I’m a failure.]
[Insert Freudian comments and Freudian comments veiled as Bible verses– trust me when I say we’ve thought them all already.]
As a parent I could get lost in the emotions of this. I mean, how is it that mom and dad can have a first love… Jesus and his church… and our kids aren’t loving what we love?
This is where the rational side of our brains takes over and comforts us.
- We don’t want them to fake it for our sake.
- We want to raise independent, critical thinkers. That includes giving them the freedom to question us within the boundaries of our authority over them.
- We believe Jesus wants to capture their heart, not their body. It’s OK if that takes time. Jesus’ offer to love the church stands the test of time, he is patient.
- We recognize that there is a difference between rejecting Jesus and not liking the action of going to church. They don’t hate Jesus, they hate going to church.
- We believe ultimately that it’s more important that the kids go to a church their parents love than one that the kids love and the parents tolerate. I find church strategies that try to hook parents with a McDonald’s approach to kids ministry often have equally crappy methodology elsewhere.
- We recognize that some of the reason they don’t like church is that daddy used to work at one, like 60+ hours a week. And repairing the equation that church equals dad loving other people’s kids and making other people’s kids a priority over them will take years to repair.
- We are willing to find expressions of church they might love. We’ve introduced Awana on Wednesday nights. It is is so developmentally appropriate for them that they are really digging it. (Even though it makes dad cringe a bit.) And this summer they will go to camp. For Kristen, Awana was a big part of her middle childhood. And for me, camp was huge from about 4th grade through high school. (Even though letting them go for a week makes Kristen cringe a little bit)
- We are willing to look in the mirror enough to recognize that being compliant at church does not equate to loving church. When I went to church as a child, I hated it and swore that I’d hate it forever.
- We aren’t going to give up simply because they don’t count down the days until Sunday. Their attitude towards church doesn’t drive us to make stupid decisions as parents. So it’s not like we’re going to stop going to church as a family.
- We are willing to lose the occasional battle for the sake of hopefully one day winning the war. That’s a crude way of saying we don’t force them to participate. We expect that they will, but allow them some ability to say no.
Maybe I’m not supposed to talk about this? Maybe writing this makes me look bad? Or maybe, just maybe, my kids are normal?